Read the latest updates on the LIAISE Toolbox!
The ex ante Impact Assessment (IA) of planned policies is an ambitious endeavour: It demands a comprehensive analysis of the environmental, economic and social impacts, it requires assumptions about the behaviour of the target group, a causal model, oftentimes a wide set of indicators and the related data, etc. With the steadily increasing capacities of computer and software, scientists are able to build simulation models that can give answers to ‘what-if’ questions when developing new policies. Such IA models operate with assumptions on natural, social and economic systems and their interplay. Despite the investment of scientific effort and sophistication when building these models, their applications in Impact Assessment fall short of expectations. While this has prompted different assumptions and hypotheses why this is the case, there is principle agreement that the Science-Policy Interface needs improvement – to increase policy awareness of model capacities, on the one hand, and to better inform modellers about policy needs, on the other hand.
This is why the LIAISE shared Toolbox is being developed. Its ultimate goal is to improve the availability of models and other relevant knowledge to the IA process. It does so by providing meta-descriptions of models and other relevant knowledge. Thereby, the Toolbox user is informed about what a model is actually doing and how it works. Such meta-information facilitates the selection of models for the purposes of a specific policy proposal. Furthermore, this information should allow the user to judge whether and how different models can be combined.
The meta-descriptions of models have been developed within LIAISE. The first version of the LIAISE Toolbox contains in total 85 descriptions of models. For the different categories against which models are described, taxonomies have been developed: e.g. for Impact Areas, Modelling Techniques, Policy Areas and Policy Instruments, there are lists of keywords to describe the models in a standardised way. The models can be identified by means of faceted search strings: by applying multiple filters on the taxonomies, models can be found that (hopefully) fulfil all requirements of a specific IA. In addition to this, a free text search is possible and can be combined with the faceted search.
The Toolbox not only entails the descriptions of models. It also models the IA process by breaking it up into different IA Activities which have to be undertaken throughout the process, and by linking it to different Impact Areas which should be taken into consideration. It also provides taxonomies for the different Jurisdictions and Policy Areas in which Impact Assessment takes place, as well as Policy Instruments which are to be assessed. The appropriateness and the use of IA knowledge depend on the context – and such keywords should help describe the context in which a specific IA takes place.
Finally, the Toolbox has the ambition to provide support and services not only regarding model selection, but throughout all steps of the process. This is why it also includes
- A database with Experts,
- A database with examples of Good Practices of Impact Assessment,
- Background information on the Impact Areas,
- Background information about generic methods which can be used in Impact Assessment,
- Background information about the requirements for IA in a wide range of countries.
All databases can be searched by faceted as well as full-text search, while the background information is included as html text.
Development of the LIAISE Toolbox
The current Alpha version of the Toolbox is a prototype. It contains a considerable amount of data on models, experts, impact areas etc. However, the main purpose of the current version is to demonstrate our Toolbox concept to describe relevant knowledge and to allow searching the data. Therefore, the main purpose of the current version is to collect user feedback. This is done by means of a questionnaire, the organisation of focus groups and analyses of website statistics.
Based on these experiences, the next Toolbox version (Beta version) is currently under development. The Beta version will allow users to enter own data, by registering and filling in forms describing their models and expertise. Furthermore, we will enable users to provide comments and other feedback to support search and selection. The beta version will also include forum software offering a communication interface for experts and policy makers. The background information will be open for editing and additions under the supervision of special editors. The Beta version will again be subject to testing. Hopefully, it will provide a useful and vividly used platform for exchange between experts and practitioners.
The Toolbox will certainly not replace the job of doing an IA or running the models. Ultimately, IA is not about running a big black box, but talking about ideas and expectations on what will come. The Toolbox should facilitate such interaction, certainly not replace it.
The Shared Toolbox is an outcome of LIAISE Work Package 4 “LIAISE Toolbox Front-office”, in collaboration with Work Package 3 "LIAISE Toolbox Back-office". For further information, please contact Klaus Jacob, FU Berlin (email@example.com).